Author's Note:

On February 15, 1933, at the age of 9, I moved to Chicago from Grand Rapids, Mich. with my parents, Charlie and Sarah Carrel and my nineteen-year old sister, Sally, living in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a building on Yale Street near 67th in Englewood, a neighborhood in south Chicago. I can pinpoint the date by the headlines in the Chicago papers that day, which announced that the Mayor of Chicago, Mayor Cermak, had been shot and killed by a bullet meant for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the dedication of a bridge in Florida.

My sister, a college student, was transferring from Olivet College in Michigan to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I, a 4th grade student, was transferring from Sigsbee School in Grand Rapids to the Francis Parker Practice School in Chicago, about two blocks south of our apartment house.

I'm sure one of my parents must have taken me to school the first day, showing me the way through an alley and across 68th Street to the spacious campus of the Chicago Normal School, Parker Practice Elementary School and the Chicago School for the Deaf, each, as I remember it, in a separate building. The bigness of it all, along with the busyness and noise of the city, with the "L" loudly clattering just east of us, was "scary" to me.

That impression is the most that I remember, except for one event which I shall never forget. One day the whole student body of all three schools on the campus were assembled in the auditorium of the Normal College to see and hear someone we'd all heard about, Miss Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. It was an experience I shall never forget, and I treasure that memory.

I don't know how many weeks or months we lived in the apartment on Yale, but ever since we moved from there to Washington Blvd. in Oak Park and I finished 4th grade in Emerson School across Kenilworth street, I have wondered about what happened to the Chicago Normal School campus and its components.

In this year of 2002, from the Holmstad, a retirement community in Batavia, Illinois where my Oak Park High School friend and husband of three and a half years and I live in a "cottage" during the summers, I have researched Francis Parker Practice School, its history and the present scene. I am most indebted to the Batavia Public Library Reference staff, and the Interlibrary Loans they have obtained for me, to the Chicago Historical Society for the pictures of the school, and to my husband, Robin Rowland for his encouragement and assistance.

Send me comments on this document.

In 1816, Chicago was a mere outpost of Anglo-Saxon civilization in the wilderness of the Illinois country. The two-hundred square miles of land which, a century later, were embraced by the city were then water, prairie, swamp and sand dune. Fort Dearborn had been established by the government in 1808 to provide security from hostile Indian tribes for the advancing whites. Yet as late as 1831, besides the garrison at the fort, the population of the settlement consisted of only twelve families. In 1835, the rapidly growing settlement was organized as a town, and two years later incorporated as a city, with a population of 4,000. At the opening of the Civil War, the city's population had increased to more than 100,000, and by 1890 the millionth mark had been passed.

The story of the growth of the public school system of Chicago reflects the growth of the city itself. The first school was established in 1816, when Chicago was but a frontier post. In 1841, four years after its incorporation as a city, the schools enrolled only 410 pupils. By 1860 this number had increased to 14,199, by 1880 to 59,562, by 1900 to 255,861, and by 1920, to 406,000.

The first high school in Chicago was established in 1856. One of the important purposes of establishing this high school was to educate teachers, for up to that time, there had been no formal training for teachers. The entrance requirements were low: women were required to be at least 15 years of age, men at least 16, and the entrance examination was of difficulty comparable to a 6th grade education. In the beginning, the work was almost entirely theoretical. By 1865, however, a practice school was established which provided a limited amount of student teaching for half a year.

In 1854, the proportion of women to men teachers was 5 to one, but by 1871, it was 16 to one. This accounted for the difference in salaries, men high school teachers in the 1850s and '60s receiving $1,000 a year and women , $250/year.

Salaries for teachers did not improve, however, even though the opportunities for being trained as a teacher did. A twenty year old girl named Ella Flagg was put in charge of the normal school in 1865; she arranged to have students work in rooms in a school in a very poor neighborhood. Ella Flagg had attended the Brown School at the age of 13 when her family moved to Chicago, teaching arithmetic there as a child monitor.

In 1871, Ella Flagg asked to be transferred to high school teaching, since she was no longer willing to try to make teachers out of children just two years out of elementary school, some of them totally incompetent but with political sponsorship by members of the Board of Education and other powerful people. The Board controlled the subjects taught, the students taught, and no one could graduate and become a teacher without their approval.

In that year of 1871, the normal division was separated from the high school and located in six rooms of a building standing on the site of the Chicago State College (for many years after 1897 called the Chicago Normal School). The Board of Education was asked to lengthen the normal training by at least another half year "to give the young ladies more culture." but the Board discouraged both lengthening the term and raising standards of admission for the normal school.

In 1868 community members had gotten what they wanted when the Cook County Normal School opened on ten acres of land donated by L.W. Beck, a prominent land developer. The new school attracted a group of professionals and businessmen. In 1869, Beck subdivided the land to the Southeast of the new Normal School and over the next few years he further developed the land which surrounded the school. The community's name, Junction Grove, kept alive memories of the old railroad community which had been built by four railroads across the swamp and forestland which had been known as Englewood. Most of the early settlers in Englewood were German and Irish railroad workers, some of whom maintained truck farms.

In 1871, the site of the Chicago High School was on Monroe St. near Halsted. A Normal school was organized as an independent school on the site of the High School. In 1890, the Chicago Manual Training School established Englewood High and Manual Training School in the old Chicago High School building at 762 W. Monroe St.

In the 1880s, Chicago's population had grown to a million, making it the second largest city on the American continent. The Cook County Normal School, the first county normal school in the U.S., had been established in 1867 in Blue Island, was later moved to Englewood, and was finally moved to the site of the Chicago Teachers College South at 6800 Stewart Avenue. From a modest origin, the Cook County Normal School was destined to become one of the famous schools of the country. In 1883, after the death of Daniel S. Wentworth, the excellent first administrator, Col. Francis Wayland Parker, endowed by nature with a genius for the work, and coming as he did with a national reputation gained at Quincy, Mass. became principal of the Cook County Normal School at Englewood, then a suburb of Chicago. The 15 year old county normal school had had a struggling existence and had declined markedly after the death of D. S. Wentworth; it needed an administrator with a firm hand who was a builder----requirements which Parker filled admirably. In 1883, The normal school consisted of three departments, a professional training class, a demonstration elementary school of eight grades, and the four grades of high school. During his first year, Parker introduced a manual training department into the elementary school. Though Parker emphasized learning through activity programs rather than through memorization, he insisted that his teachers be thoroughly prepared in subject matter, teaching methods, and child development. There was no tuition for residents of Cook County, but non-residents were charged $75. Parker, of course, attracted students from all over the country. The average graduating class between 1883 and 1886 was 68. The prescribed course of study was forty weeks. Candidates for the diploma were evaluated on satisfactory evidence of professional attitudes as well as skills. Candidates were not only judged on their ability to "govern" and "teach a class fairly well" but on their courage to fight for the ideals of the new education.

In 1891 Albert G. Lane was elected Chicago Superintendent of Schools after he had served eight years as Cook County Superintendent of Schools. Although, like Ella Flagg Young, he had had only the two-year normal course in the old Chicago High School as formal education, Lane was generally recognized within the system as an effective administrator, and his election as president of the new National Education Association indicated similar recognition by his professional colleagues outside the city. He used what authority he had with tact, both with teachers and principals , and with the Board of Education.

Under Lane's direction, manual training classes were opened in ten more elementary schools as a regular part of the curriculum. In 1892, the ten kindergartens which had been operated and financed since 1888 by a private association were finally incorporated into the system and financed by state law in 1895. In that year also, Lane supported the efforts of teachers to get a pension fund, and a general revision in the course of study throughout the system embodied many smaller changes sought by private groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Daily News, the Public School Art Society and the School Children's Aid Society. "Vacation Schools", sponsored by the Civic Federation were opened by 1897.

Superintendent of Schools Lane was impressed with the demonstration Helen Keller gave at a conference on the oral method of teaching speech to the deaf. Perhaps this was one reason that a School for the Deaf was established in 1910 at the Chicago Normal College as well as at two other schools, Delano and Waters. Some of the teachers of the deaf were trained in the oral method at the Normal College. Miss Clara Newles became the head teacher of the deaf in the Parker Practice School, which also employed a full-time, specially trained manual training and vocational guidance teacher for the deaf. There were 12 divisions of the deaf at Parker Practice, more than at the other two schools. Female deaf students above the third grade had cooking and sewing lessons by the regular teachers of these subjects in Parker Practice. The deaf ate in the Normal School lunch room, and the girls had a Camp Fire Circle, the boys a Boy Scout Troop. By 1918, classes for the deaf at Parker were badly overcrowded, with ten of its classes in portable buildings. Students from the North side were transferred to the new Alexander Graham Bell School, where A. G. Bell himself was present. By 1923, there was a total of 379 deaf students in the school system.

While the City's population grew 21 percent between 1915 and 1925, the elementary enrollment increased 29.8 percent and the high school enrollment 130 percent, or 5 times that of 1906.

Before the 1889 annexations, Chicago had only 5 high schools, but by 1900 the Chicago Board of Education had the Chicago Normal School, 15 high schools and 234 elementary schools. In 1900, there were 244,926 enrolled in the elementary schools, 10,241 in the high schools, 497 in the Normal School and 188 in the School for the Deaf.

However, not all the changes were positive, as there were those who felt that too much money was being spent on public schools and that drawing, music, physical culture, German, and sewing were "frills" not necessary for any but rich children in private schools. In 1893, the Chicago Tribune published no less than 30 editorials attacking these "fads and frills" and declaring that the teaching of such subjects would compel "sending to college all the children of working men" who wanted to go.

In April of 1893 the Chicago Board of Education had established a special training school for "cadets". Candidates for teaching positions were required "to cadet" during the forenoon in their assigned schools and receive special instruction in educational principles and methods in the afternoon. Over 300 cadets completed this course in 1894, more than 400 in 1895, while the Cook County Normal School, with all its facilities, graduated less than 100 a year. The Chicago Board of Education argued that the Cook County Normal School ought to come under the Chicago Board of Education, where it would be be better and more economically managed. On December 9, 1895 the Cook County Board of Commissioners resolved to convey the Normal School properties to the Chicago Board of Education. One important condition was that the Normal School should always be open to residents of Cook County without charge. The Chicago Board of Education hesitated to accept the transfer, some said because Col. Parker went with it, a fact that was expected to cause discord and contention. One Board member said that "Col. Parker is teaching a system concerning which there is a diversity of opinion, and which is totally irreconcilable with the system used in our schools. To adopt him is to adopt his system." Parker and his teachers refused to resign. The teachers protested by working without pay.

On January 29, 1896, under the head of "unfinished business", the Chicago Board of Education voted to adopt the Normal School immediately and retain its staff until July 1, 1896. Legal transfer of the Normal School was officially effected on April 22, 1896. Parker announced the move "an epoch" in the history of the school. The Col. had great plans for introducing new scientific methods of education into the public schools of Chicago. Early in June he wrote that if his plans passed the Board of Education, there would be "the most effective Normal School in America, if not in the world." The "cadets" and their small staff of professional teachers were ordered joined to the Normal School. The school was thereafter called the "Chicago Normal School".

Chicago in 1896 was the scene of the Democratic National Convention. Williams Jenning Bryan lost the presidency to William McKinley, but Carter H. Harrison gained the Chicago mayoralty on the Democratic ticket. He proceeded to incorporate the Chicago Board of Education into the City's political machine. Harrison was determined to rid the schools of Parker but failed; he succeeded in ridding them of Superintendant Lane.

Superintendent Lane's most important contribution to the Chicago school system was a long step forward in the training of teachers, taken in 1896. Whereas the procedure for becoming an elementary school teacher, since the normal school had been closed in 1877, was for a high school graduate who could find a political sponsor to be designated a cadet to learn from another untrained teacher, or, without any experience, be assigned as a substitute teacher. In 1892, Lane opened an after-hours school course for cadets which they were required to attend for six months.

But in the winter of 1895-96, the Cook County Normal School offered to turn over its building and land on 68th St. to the City of Chicago if the Board of Education would continue to use it as a normal school. Col. Francis W. Parker became head of the new normal school and brought with him from Quincy, Mass. a whole new range of ideas about children and pedagogy. In spite of his critics, Parker kept this position until 1899, when he left the Normal School to lead a new school for teachers at the University of Chicago, leaving a mark on the Chicago Public Schools which would improve their quality for many years to come.

In 1909, Superintendent of Schools Cooley resigned and the vacancy was filled by the election of Mrs. Ella Flagg Young, by that time an experienced teacher and administrator. The Chicago Normal School had been under the control of the Board of Education since 1896, and Mrs. Young thought that she was confronted with a practical necessity, that of coordinating it with the city schools. In keeping with the constantly broadening concept of education, the campus was reorganized, athletics and activities were given more prominence, and the course of study was expanded from two to three years. In 1928, Chicago Normal School president Butler Laughlin raised entrance requirements, adding an oral examination to the entrance procedure, and adopted a quota system which resulted in a highly selective student body. In 1936, the succeeding president, Dr. Verne Graham, reorganized the Chicago Normal College into the four-year degree-granting Chicago Teachers College, which became a reality in 1938. By 1962, the College started granting the Master of Arts degree in numerous academic fields and the Master of Education Degree in a number of specialized fields such as library science, teaching of the handicapped, and guidance.

In Chicago schools by this time, commercial and technical courses, manual training and household arts, physical education, classes for several kinds of handicapped children, kindergartens all were taken for granted. The child labor law of the state had raised the school leaving age to 16. Textbooks were now furnished free, after forty years of argument.

The Chicago Teachers College is now, in 2002, Northeastern Illinois University at 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue in Chicago. On the campus which was once the Normal College campus are the City College of Chicago and the Kennedy-King College, located between Normal Parkway to the north, 69th St. to the south, Normal St. on the west and the Dan Ryan Expressway on the east. Parker Practice School is at 68th St. and Stewart. The Francis Parker School, a private school founded by Col. Parker on the North Shore in 1901, is a leading school in the Chicago area. It is located at 330 W. Webster Avenue.



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Education of the Deaf in Chicago.

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Pacyga, Dominic A. and Ellen Skerrett: CHICAGO; City of Neighborhoods, Histories and Tours, Loyola U. Press, 1986.

Parker, Franklin: FRANCIS W. PARKER AND PUBLIC EDUCATION IN CHICAGO; The Stormy Career of a Great Educational Reformer. Chicago Schools Journal, April, 1961.

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